This will be a rivalry for years to come.
Last year’s play-in game was just the start of the rivalry. Both teams have built around their All-Star guard through drafts and trades prior to going all in on another All-Star to pair with them. Both teams have gotten off to hot starts this season as a result and came into the game tied in the standings.
Despite the similarities on the surface, these two teams have very different basketball philosophies. Those different styles has made their recent matchups must watch. It’ll be fun to see what adjustments both teams make ahead of their next tilt.
Containing Trae Young is an issue.
Stopping Young is easier said than done. The star point guard came out firing as he produced 19 first half points on 7-11 shooting with 4 turnovers.
The Cavs famously didn’t go over screens last year in the play-in, leading to a three point explosion from Young. J.B. Bickerstaff and company tried a different game plan tonight which didn’t work in the first half. The Cavs tried to stay on the level of the screener which allowed Young to get clean runs to the basket.
oh it's just Trae Young and Darius Garland trading layups. pic.twitter.com/73KC1uwnG8— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) November 22, 2022
Cleveland doesn’t have a good defender they can throw on Young. Garland started the evening on Young which led to them exchanging layups throughout the first half. Isaac Okoro was subbed in to curtail Young. Okoro wasn’t able to do that, as Young used the third-year guard’s aggressiveness against him resulted in three first half fouls.
Young cooled down considerably in the second half — putting up just 6 points on 3-11 shooting with 4 turnovers. More impressively, he didn’t attempt any free throws after getting the Cavaliers in foul trouble early.
Despite the poor second half execution, there is no easy solution for defending Young. Fortunately for the Cavs, the addition of Donovan Mitchell means that Young can’t hide defensively which makes it a little more of a fair fight. We’ll see if the Cavs are able to find defensive adjustments for this matchup as the season continues.
The Cavs need to do a better job limiting fast break opportunities.
The Cavs have struggled against teams against teams who are a good attacking in transition. The Hawks are one of those teams as they run the fifth most transition offensive possessions in the league. The Cavs on the other hand allow the fourth most opponent transition opportunities.
Atlanta was able to break down the Cavs’ good half court defense by limiting the amount of times they went against it. As a result, the Hawks outscored the Cavs 20 to 15 in transition baskets. This advantage was amplified as the Cavs had a tough time controlling the ball which led to 19 turnovers and 26 points off turnovers.
The Cavs ability to control the paint and create second chance opportunities helped mask these issues tonight. That said, limiting transition opportunities is something this team would like to fix as the season progresses.
The Cavs did a good job closing the game.
Closing games has been an issue this season, but wasn’t one tonight. Cleveland never let their foot off the gas as they never let the lead get under 4 points throughout the final frame.
Cleveland was able to generate good half court offense down the stretch which isn’t something they’ve always been able to do. It was nice to see them easily finish a game they were supposed to against a similarly talented team.
Cedi Osman continues to make the most of his opportunities.
Osman backed up his strong performance on Sunday with another tonight. He provided 23 points on 8-10 shooting which included knocking down 3-4 three pointers. Osman iced the game away by drawing a (questionable) clear path foul, draining the two free-throws and then nailing a corner three.
The Cavs really needed this given how short handed the bench is and how hesitant Kevin Love looked coming back from his thumb injury. The Cavs are now 7-2 when Osman plays 21 or more minutes.
Osman is prone for extreme highs and lows. Fortunately for the Cavs he’s currently riding a hot streak. Osman continues to have an outsized impact on winning as Cleveland continues to play their best basketball when he’s on the floor. Even when he isn’t as good as he was this evening.
Cleveland desperately needs wings who can shoot, dribble and get out in transition. Osman is far from a perfect option, but he’s the wing who’s best suited at providing those skills on this roster.
The Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell show has been fun.
The duo is continuing to improve on the chemistry they’ve shown. This was another example of how fun they can look when both have it going.
Garland continued his hot streak which extends back to his 51 point performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He poured in 26 points on 9-14 shooting with 9 assists. Turnovers do however remain an issue as he contributed 8 tonight. This is the third game in a row he’s committed 5 or more turnovers.
Mitchell once again showed why he should be in the MVP discussion. He contributed 29 points on 11-22 shooting and 4-8 from three. He also contributed 9 assists and 3 steals in the win.
The Cavs’ duo easily won the backcourt battle tonight. They were able to execute well on both ends despite the injuries to their top reserves. It’s been encouraging to see them continue to develop their chemistry while putting up impressive scoring numbers.
Up next: The Cavs will conclude the homestand on Wednesday night as the Portland Trailblazers come to town. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.